OSLO, July 13. /TASS/. The Norwegian government should invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay a state visit next year, said Rune Rafaelsen, a Norwegian politician and the mayor of the Sor-Varanger municipality, the northernmost Schengen border region with Russia.
In an interview, published by the Verdens Gang (VG) newspaper on Thursday, he said the visit can coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Finnmark, a WWII-era operation in which Soviet and Norwegian forces wrestled away control of Norway’s northernmost county Finnmark from Nazi Germany.
"It will offer a wonderful opportunity for a friendly state visit. I believe that if a visit like that takes place, it would benefit Russian-Norwegian cooperation," Rafaelsen said.
The politician, representing the opposition’s Labour Party, served as Secretary General of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat for 12 years until he left in 2014 to run for the elected office. During his tenure as the Norwegian Barents Secretariat’s head, he was tasked with practical aspects of regional cooperation with Russia.
According to Rafaelsen, despite Norway’s joining to European sanctions against Russia, the two states still have the opportunity to develop economic cooperation, especially in the oil and gas sphere.
A Russian embassy official told Verdens Gang that an invitation from the Norwegian government, if received, will be considered in due order.
The Russian diplomatic mission agrees that the two neighbors should take joint efforts to expand economic ties.
"The peoples of Russia and Norway are still united by common history," the embassy said.
In October 2014, when the two states marked the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Finnmark, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended commemorative events in the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, about a dozen of kilometers from the Russian border. During the visit, Lavrov met with his Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende and Prime Minister Erna Solberg.